Taxpayers subsidising low pay and casual hours

Almost 90,000 employees are currently receiving jobseekers benefits because their pay is too low or their working hours are too few. And over 40,000 working families are receiving family income supplement, according to new figures.

In a recent answer to a Dáil question, social protection minister Joan Burton said “a changing labour market” had caused an “increase in the number of persons employed for less than a full week.” The minister has asked the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare to explore the issue of atypical work and make recommendations.

The figures emerged as unions voiced increasing concerns about casual work and ‘zero hours’ contracts, where staff must be available for work but employers don’t provide set hours. It was recently reported that a majority of staff in Irish outlets of McDonalds and Dominos Pizzas are on zero hours contracts.

A membership survey by retail union Mandate recently found that, while 70% had worked in retail for over five years, less than a third had full-time contracts. Half said their hours were changed at least once a month and only a third had stable hours. The recent Dáil answer listed retail giants like Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Lidl and Pennys as having large numbers of staff who also claim FIS or jobseekers benefits.

A separate Dáil answer recently revealed that the number of public servants who receive family income supplement (FIS) has increased by 32% since 2008, up from 2,720 to 3,595 in 2013.